By Danielle Keiser
As I pulled the cold handle of the door to the locker room, the words bordering the iconic image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on a flyer ignited a spark in me.
"A Day to Take On, Not a Day to Take Off" relentlessly tugged at my conscious. I was determined to understand the meaning behind why we do not go to school, why we don’t have to work, and why we don’t have access to the places and services that we so heavily rely upon every day on MLK day. Why do we Americans, so inundated with schedules and deadlines, get to escape from our hectic workweeks to observe this day? Furthermore, what does it mean that we choose to stay out and drink later, sleep longer, and dapple away on a day dedicated to a remarkably rare being who made it his life’s work to defend the principles of human benevolence and equality amongst the different colors, creeds, and constituencies in this country, and the world?
Since that day, those words have followed me around town on my hum-drum errands, echoed in the tiny speakers of my headphones, and even wriggled their way into the conversations I had at the flea market, the funk party, and the home-made MLK Day/Help Katrina celebration that was held at the clock tower on Monday. Those simple yet gregarious words struck me with a kind of dignified truth to speak out about what I have construed people to have largely overlooked. I felt inspired not only to take on the day but also to take on the weekend. By speaking to my peers, my loved ones, and frankly to any eavesdropping ears, this day more so than any other, pleads for you to slow down and take a moment to wrap your mind around the tremendous vigor and effervescence King possessed to change the world.
We get to relax because King did not. We get to procrastinate because King could not. His nonviolent and moral pursuit for justice and equality at the very least ought to incite a certain gratitude in each and every one of us, if only on the grounds that he wanted so badly for the world to evolve into a better place for you and for me to live in.
Monday’s local celebration filled me with a particular joy that no latte or lecture could have. The jovial demonstration was heard by feel-good keyboard gospel and seen by people boisterously raising cardboard hearts on sticks reading "Follow Your Heart".
The purpose of this gathering was to show how Dr. Martin Luther King’s fiery passion for brotherhood and social change still flickers with a bright intensity: people with altruistic passions to help others around them with their own two hands can be seen even in the most bourgeoisie California coastal cities.
You may have seen Curtis Reliford’s RV in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. Reliford, like King, is dedicated to a cause. He is the founder of an organization called Follow Your Heart, a volunteer group taking direct aid to Katrina evacuees four times a year, by bringing food, clothes, tools, toys and love to those far less fortunate than any of us could imagine.
King’s devotion to healing the hurting social body runs strong in the activism and stunning grace of people like Reliford, whose incredible generosity and leadership compel me to be the change I want to see. I took on the day in the exchange of words, whether written or spoken, in hopes that maybe next year, we can all embrace and take on the value underpinning Martin Luther King Jr. Day.